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Discussion Starter #1
I've basically been shedding patterns from my teacher for the last 10 months and now he wants me to start working at freeing up my playing from them. So I was thinking about how players go about doing this. Apart from 'just working at it' are there any specifics that anyone can offer?

As I see it patterns are a framework for your playing and you should be able to play free around that framework. For the most part patterns should not be just regurgitated in your playing, otherwise that is exactly what it will sound like.

So how do you go about practising freeing your playing from patterns that you've been shedding, while still benefiting from them?
 

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There was a time in my life where I refused to practice patterns, because I felt that it would ruining my 'ideas'. I later ran into a brick wall where I discovered my 'ideas' were becoming patterned, and cliched.

I think a good idea for you would be to play a tune, and improvise off of the melody, rather than playing patterns you've practiced. Mix up the rhythms and displace the octaves. See where this takes you.
 

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Best way to break from patterns IMO is to start studying melodies and melodic players (Miles Davis comes to mind). Work on varying rhythms and dynamics in your solos too. Also, listen/transpose solos from other instruments and not just sax. I got originally interested in the sax when I started trying to make my guitar solos more interesting. The guitar is a very pattern oriented instrument. Many guitarist listen to horn players to better learn phrasing. I realized each instrument has it's owed approach to the music. You can learn something from all of them.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
hakukani said:
There was a time in my life where I refused to practice patterns, because I felt that it would ruining my 'ideas'. I later ran into a brick wall where I discovered my 'ideas' were becoming patterned, and cliched.
I went through the same thing. My playing was I guess more melodic then. Now I've gone to the other extreme where it's more pattern based. Maybe it's time to go back the other way.

BTW, the patterns I've been given are great, very musical. Maybe something like Neff's ii-V-I patterns that can be applied to your playing. But I don't want to be locked into them.

Ideally you'd be able to not only play melodically but also play the ideas that the patterns have given you.
 

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Ken said:
BTW, the patterns I've been given are great, very musical. Maybe something like Neff's ii-V-I patterns that can be applied to your playing. But I don't want to be locked into them.

.
Oddly enough, I'm working on Neff's ii-V patterns.:D
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Ok, so it looks like we've got the melodic approach as one way of freeing up your playing. Any other ideas?

Another way could be to shed your own lines over tunes and ii-V-i's, sometimes using ideas from your patterns, sometimes from the melody. Mix it up a bit.
 

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These are some of the things I've tried working through at the recommendations of others.

Take smaller chunks of the patterns and use them as melodic devices.

Analyze how these patterns are approaching the chord tones and tensions. Use these approaches as melodic ideas.

Focus on rhythm and especially rhythmic displacement. One of the problems of pattern playing is the tendency to start and stop on the same beats or parts of the beat (and playt a lot of eigth notes). Try obscuring the "1" (and the root for that matter as well). One way this was taught to me was that the rhythmic value of the last note of a bar should be assigned to the first note of the next bar.

Try playing "rests."

That reminds me. Gotta go practice.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've also have taken chunks of patterns and used those as starting points for my own lines.

My teacher tends to play a lot of eighth notes but he sounds good, like he's playing himself, not patterns. I think that is just his style.

Right now my playing tends to be a stream of eighth notes, but I think the reason he has me doing this is to be able to get the sound into my head first, to "get deep into the chords" as he says. But those are good points which I think I'll discuss with him next time, to see whether it's ok to start using space, rhythm and melody as well.
 

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My teacher has been telling me to do the same...
Sorry if I explain it really really simply, but by doing so I'm also helping myself understand it better as well.

I showed him the Steve Neff ii-V-i's and he suggested some of the following (this applies to any ii-v-i by the way).

Firstly, don't just memorise the lick, try to figure out what it is that the musician was doing/thinking when he/she was playing. For example in Neffs licks, alot of the notes are there encircling and leading to the "important" notes.

Some exercises:

1. play the II-V and start inprovising over the I
2. play the II - start improvising over the V and try resolving it on the I.
3. Go round and round breaking further away from the pattern in the II-V-I by adding a VI(7) at the end...

To explain 3 further...
In Cmajor we have Dmin - GM7 - C.

He suggested we add another chord so it becomes: Dmin - GM7 - Ab7(b9)
The Ab7 is the 5th of Dmin so it helps resolve nicely back to the Dminor chord. Play the lick through a few times, then adapt it slightly, then slightly more, then slightly more until all that remains is the essence of the pattern.

does this help answer your question?
 

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omes said:
He suggested we add another chord so it becomes: Dmin - GM7 - Ab7(b9)
The Ab7 is the 5th of Dmin so it helps resolve nicely back to the Dminor chord. Play the lick through a few times, then adapt it slightly, then slightly more, then slightly more until all that remains is the essence of the pattern.
Ummm, Ab7 isn't the V7 of D-. That would be A7. Using the VI7 chord to turnaround to the ii chord is very common. You can even substitute the iii over the I chord to get a ii-V7-iii-VI7 progression, a very common vamp used at the end of tunes.

The Ab7 could be used as a tritone sub over the D-. I know some of Neff's patterns use a tritone sub over the V7 chord.
 

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That's a good question.

Imagine yourself as if you are stuck in a pattern, like you are rotating in a circle and can't stop... so you try to figure out a way to stop. Finally you manage to slow down but you were trying so hard now you're spinning in the other direction and can't stop. How do you free yourself from the pattern? I say, think outside of the circle. Don't stop what you're doing, don't try to change it, just listen and be open and be creative, then that pattern you were stuck in will generate a new one as you realize what you were playing, you see it instead of being stuck in it, and then you'll see yourself in relationship to the pattern and have to freedom to go elsewhere. It doesn't erase the mistake of being stuck, but the mistake becomes a memory that makes more sense now because the clarity of seeing through it and playing through it, you see what came before in a positive way because of how it made you realize your pattern was only temporary. It is seeing the pattern, not being the pattern, that gives you the ability to connect new patterns to it, or even to erase old ones by playing them in reverse!

Today while playing along to some music I had an unpleasant thought that made me play a whole bunch of very unpleasant sounding notes on my sax. Then my neighbor got angry and started banging on the ceiling. I didn't stop playing but it made me realize that I was stuck in the pattern of whatever thought or feeling that was throwing me off. So I thought about it and then played something which felt like going back in time, or playing the opposite of what I played... like if I played a G and then a C#, which are opposite each other on the circle of fifths. Like playing something dissonant to the original dissonance, but this time I did it in a comfortable way, as if I was forgiving myself by showing the meaningless of that pattern through acknowledgment, and simultaneously letting it go. Then that pattern is gone and the freedom became mine to create new things without having to dwell on or be regretful about the mistake (which only reinforces the pattern!) Now it just exists as a memory which I am detached from, I don't feel guilty about it so I have no reason to revisit it, like a kind of reprogramming, instead of calling it pain I called it nothing. Like if I played bad and it came out like "everything is pain" so then I played "pain is nothing" and the pattern was reshaped in my mind.
 

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Yes Agent27 you are absoloutely correct... Thanks for pointing out the error.

Looking back at the post, I feel like a bit of an idiot.

The Ab still seems to work though.
 

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omes said:
Yes Agent27 you are absoloutely correct... Thanks for pointing out the error.

Looking back at the post, I feel like a bit of an idiot.

The Ab still seems to work though.
The Ab7 works on the V (G7) chord because in relation to the G7 the Ab is the b9, the Bb is the #9 ,the C is an avoid note play a B
the 3rd, the Db is the b5 ,the Eb is the b13, the F is the 7th .

this is the altered scale which works well on G7

G Ab Bb B Db Eb F (Gb as a passing tone to G if you like, avoid a downbeat with this note), What sounds good to the ears IS GOOD . Go to a piano and try this stuff with a G in the bass.
 

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Mike Cesati said:
The Ab7 works on the V (G7) chord because in relation to the G7 the Ab is the b9, the Bb is the #9 ,the C is an avoid note play a B
the 3rd, the Db is the b5 ,the Eb is the b13, the F is the 7th .

this is the altered scale which works well on G7

G Ab Bb B Db Eb F (Gb as a passing tone to G if you like, avoid a downbeat with this note), What sounds good to the ears IS GOOD . Go to a piano and try this stuff with a G in the bass.
I frequently play an altered minor pentatonic up a half step from the root on dominant chords to give that Altered scale sound. By altered I mean using the Major pentatonic pattern (12356) instead of the minor one (13457), just using a minor 3rd instead of a major 3rd.

Over G it would be an Ab minor pentatonic (altered) = Ab Bb B(Cb) Eb F.

Or sometimes just the 1235 portion. Combine that with a descending bebob scale and you get:

G Gb F E Eb B Bb Ab G

Great little pattern right there.
 

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This is a great question, and I have some ideas, but first I want to point out that if there is going to be 8th-note motion (or faster) in your solos, you WILL be using patterned information. The reality is that melodic playing or "real time composition" can only go so fast. Some of us can do it faster than others, but our ears/brains/hands can only go so fast before we HAVE to start using groups of notes.

Think back to when you first started learning scales. At first you HAD to think about every note, because it hadn't become a familiar pattern. As you start to speed it up, eventually there's a change that occurs: The scale moves into what I call "Pattern Tempo." That is, a tempo at which you can no longer think of each individual note. It becomes a group of notes.

But here's the thing. After recognizing that ALL lines of 8th notes are going to be patterned, it's important to realize that those patterns can be manipulated. Thomas Owens did a doctoral dissertation analyzing the solos of Charlie Parker. He discovered that Parkers entire improvisational vocabulary consisted of about 104 licks/patterns. Seems like a lot for me, but for a genius like Parker, that struck me as a low number. But Parker could manipulate those patterns in a variety of ways. He could:

Embellish them
Truncate them (playing only part of the pattern)
Displace them (start on different beat)
Change the rhythm
Use the pattern in different harmonic settings (lots of his D Major vocab also appears when he plays in B minor).

A great book to check out would be "How To Improvise" by Hal Crook. He advocates breaking practice sessions into short periods of time (10, 20, 30 min) where you focus on one specific musical element: Rhythm, Density (amount of space), Range, Direction, Width of intervals, etc.

At a certain speed they're still going to be patterns, but the idea is that by practicing manipulation of a variety of musical elements, your patterns wil not be so monochromatic. Your vocabulary will have more variety.

Also, the bigger your vocabulary (bag of patterns), the less you'll feel like you're "trapped". If I'm learning a new language, I first learn phrases that are similar. "Where is the telephone?" "Where is the bathroom?" "Where is the library?", or phrases that concern the same thing: "The bathroom is small." "The bathroom is bright" "The bathroom is clean".

Nothing wrong with those phrases, but if that's all I know in that language, my ability to have an improvisational conversation is going to be extremely limited. I won't be able to improvise or express my ideas until I have mastered a much larger vocabulary of patterns.

Keep working, explore ways to add variety to your phrases (including slower melodic/motivic playing), but don't be afraid of having patterns in your playing. It's inevitable!
 

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Once you can play a pattern (given to you), play what is written less and less by adding your own ideas, but keeping the phrasing in mind. In my opinion, working on the quality of your phrases - while it being one of the most challenging aspects of musicianship - can do so much more to your playing than by focusing on this note, that note, etc. Still do study the subtlties (extensions, tension notes, etc) but do not let it detour you from what you want to play. Learn from it and move on. All it does is open up your ears so that you can more easily play with color without even thinking about it. No matter how many patterns or ideas you work out, it always has to come back to the sound.

What I have been doing for a while now is creating my own exercises, warm-ups, patterns, what have you... and working on them daily. I may be playing some ideas over a certain progression, and if I like something that I've played that I want to document, I'll jot it down and work it through all of the keys. Even if I do not play it while I'm with a band, at least I'll have more of my own ideas to work with.

It is very easy to get caught up in the idea of having to play "lines". Honestly, I don't think of what I play as being lines, but rather, statements. "Line" has a very technical connotation to it, but sometimes technique is not needed. I try to play in the best manner that suits the music. It can change depending on the band and the type of music. So while I do understand what lines are, and can play them, they are what they are.

Listen to different players than you are used to, players who aren't known for just playing "lines"; Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Dewey Redman, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, etc. All these players have something that you can learn from to add a different quality to your own style. If all you listen to and study is Charlie Parker and John Coltane, of course you are going to become consumed in lines rather than stepping outside of the box and absorbing different angles various players have taken.
 

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Take every pattern you know and add a lower chromatic neighbor. This not only gives you one more note, but shifts the rhythmic pattern. Now do an enclosure or upper then lower chromatic neighbor on every pattern. Then do a whole step above and then a half below before your pattern. Patterns rule!
 
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